Six tips to prevent tragedy in the water this summer

A steamy summer means more time cooling off by the water — in pools, lakes or splash pads

Spending time anywhere near water comes with great responsibility. Drowning happens fast.

“Drowning is silent,” says Sharon Ramagnano, manager of trauma services at Sunnybrook and head of the RBC Office of Injury Prevention. “People often think, ‘I’ll hear my child struggling in the water,’ but that’s not the case. Drowning isn’t flailing and splashing about like it is in the movies. The child or adult who’s struggling in the water most often doesn’t scream for help. We often hear parents say they didn’t hear anything at all, and it was too late.”

It’s important to also remember that drowning can happen even in shallow water.

Here are six ways you can minimize your family’s risks around water this summer:

Learn to Swim: Swimming is a skill, and it’s important to feel safe around water. If financially possible, put your child (and yourself) in Learn to Swim classes. In the City of Toronto, there are subsidies available. Many cities now offer free Swim to Survive days at their pools. If you cannot swim, don’t swim where there is no lifeguard on duty.

Don’t Swim Alone: Even if you are a comfortable swimmer, you should never swim by yourself. It’s important you are not alone in the event you get into hurt or into distress in the water.

Watch your kids around water: Watch. Your. Kids. Around. Water. Even when there’s a lifeguard. Even if the water is shallow. Even if other parents are around. Watch your kids around water. You should be within arms reach of your little ones at all times when they are in the water. Not engrossed in your phone. Not making dinner and watching through the kitchen window. Not up in the cottage grabbing the towels while they are in the lake. Drowning can take mere seconds. If you can’t swim, reconsider where and when you let your kids go into the water.

Wear a lifejacket when on a boat: Everyone should wear a lifejacket when on watercraft of any kind (paddle board, canoe, motorboat, kayak). If you fall into the water and bonk your head on a rock, an approved lifejacket will keep you afloat.

Put down the alcohol: Booze and swimming or boating don’t mix. Alcohol inhibits our decision-making and can lead to riskier behaviour. Don’t drink and swim. And do not drink and boat. Just don’t.

Be a responsible pool owner: If you’ve got a pool, be sure to keep the fence gate locked. And, one interesting thing I learned recently— don’t leave your pool toys in the pool. Toys are tempting for curious kids and they will sometime stop at nothing to reach that floaty swan or pool noodle. Put toys away to reduce their temptation to get at them.

With the heat in the city like it’s been, it’s important to stay cool. Please stay safe while doing so.